By David Hill
“Better than before” is the Waimakariri District Council’s motto as it begins work on a Covid-19 recovery plan.
Councillors voted to approve staff taking the lead in developing a recovery plan in partnership with the community, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, at Tuesday’s council meeting, which was livestreamed via Zoom on YouTube.
The report, presented by district recovery manager Simon Hart and strategy and engagement manager Simon Markham, also proposed the established of an economic advisory group.
“We have come up with the phrase than before’,” Mr Hart says.
“It’s about acknowledging this is a great place to live and work, but we can come out of this a lot stronger if we do it right.
“Recovery is about building the plane as you fly it. The recovery is more likely to be a marathon rather than a sprint, with key recovery programmes needing to last for two to five years.”
Mr Hart says the recovery plan needs to be developed while events are still unfolding and while “not knowing what the damage will look like”.
He says the district’s earthquake recovery demonstrated the benefits of wide community consultation early on.
“This event is unprecedented, but New Zealand’s response is considered internationally to be very, very good. But the economic impact will be huge.”
Mr Hart says economic scenarios from Treasury suggest that real GDP (gross domestic product) could fall from 2.8 percent for the year ending June 2019 to -5% for this year, with unemployment set to climb from a national average of 4% to around 10%.
Enterprise North Canterbury has undertaken 705 business assessments in the last two months, more than double the number it would normally process, to assist businesses in planning for the future.
Mr Markham said staff planned to present a recovery planning update to the July council meeting.
Chief executive Jim Palmer says the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis remain a key concern for the council.
“Health and safety was a particular concern initially, but now the economic impact is something we are still concerned about and there are some significant impacts for both the council and the district.
“But there are many other parts of the country and the world which will fare far worse than Waimakariri.”
He says continued population growth and the strong rural sector put the district in “a unique position”.
Mr Palmer says council staff considered the immediate financial impacts of the pandemic in the revised draft 2020/21 annual plan, which councillors deliberated on last week, and staff will now be considering potential economic scenarios as work begins on the 2021/31 Long Term Plan.
With New Zealand potentially moving to Alert Level 1 next week, the council is planning to return to holding public council and community board meetings.